Trump must go

August 31, 2019.
Roaring Creek Farm, Gadsden County, Florida.
Less than one year ago, Michael, a Category 5 hurricane, struck the Big Bend.
The farm wasn’t spared. Winds of 145 mph toppled old hardwood trees and planted longleaf pines alike.
The destruction remains painfully evident.
Now another massive hurricane, Dorian, stalks in the Atlantic Ocean, threatening the East Coast.
Welcome to the new normal.
Meanwhile, the president of the United States is hastening what will certainly be the devastating impacts of climate change.
He has put industry toadies in positions of power who are dead set on undoing even the modicum of environmental protections that were in place.
Of all the absurdities that come out of his mouth, remember this one: How about dropping a nuclear bomb into hurricanes to stop them.
Or this one: I’m an environmentalist because I’ve done environmental impact statements for projects.
There are many reasons why it is imperative that this president shouldn’t be re-elected.
We desperately need a leader who will prepare us for the new world we are bequeathing to our grandchildren.
If we don’t find that leader, the question they will be asking us will cut like a jagged knife:
How could you?

Take a Moment to Drink from Nature’s Cup

The bird feeders at Roaring Creek Farm are dinged and worn after tussles with squirrels and raccoons and the passage of time.
But the birds still visit them: chickadees, the tufted titmouse, mourning doves, woodpeckers, crows.
The male cardinals stand out with their startling red raiment and their quarreling ways.
When I was a boy, I had a pair of mourning doves that lived outside in a cage my father and I had built, but I had to release them when a next-door neighbor complained about their cooing, which he somehow found irritating instead of peaceful.
Another time I found an egg that had fallen from a nest. I swaddled it in cotton and placed it on top of the water heater for warmth.
The shell cracked open, and I fed the baby sparrow with an eyedropper as it grew feathers and learned to fly.
The bird would sit on my shoulder. Outside it would take flight but always return to me.
I had to leave the sparrow perched on a chain link fence instead of my shoulder as we left on a family vacation.
I can see it to this day, sitting lonely and confused. It was gone when we returned.
Life lessons taught at an early age: People don’t always appreciate beauty and life moves on.
The other day at the farm the crows were carrying on in the yard by the feeders, cardinals flitted from one feeder to another and a red-bellied woodpecker sailed down from a nearby hickory tree and hung upside down on a feeder to dine.
The birds offer comfort in good times and times of trouble.
“Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?
“Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”
No, but life’s moments are richer when we drink deeply from the beauty of God’s creation.
We are assigned the task of protecting it. In these difficult times, to our shame we are failing to fulfil our sacred duty.

The Tractor

One would think that after almost eight years of sharing intimate moments we would be friends.
We are closer to reaching mutual understanding, but it is apparent there will always be an undercurrent of mistrust and acrimony in our relationship.
Neither one of us is much to look at.
The old faded-red Massey Ferguson tractor has more than a few dings, and at 71 years old so do I.
When I climb onto the driver’s seat, I can almost hear the tractor say with disdain, “Rookie.”
It’s an apt description since I spent my working career in offices far removed from plowing fields.
We met when my wife and I bought Roaring Creek Farm. I had zero tractor experience.
I began learning by doing, and I quickly learned the tractor could kill me, especially when using the Bush Hog to mow the side of a hill in one of our pastures.
Ah, the Bush Hog. It too has its moments.
The first challenge is attaching the Bush Hog to the Power Take-Off shaft, which transfers the mechanical power from the tractor to the mower.
If this sounds like I’m smart, I had to Google it.
But let’s back up. The first challenge is lining up the side arms of the tractor’s three-point hitch to attach them to the mower.
This is a precise operation. There is nothing precise about my Massey Ferguson.
That finally accomplished it’s time to join the mower to the PTO shaft. The shaft on the mower should slide out to allow the coupler to reach the PTO.
Did I mention the Bush Hog is also old and cantankerous?
The shaft is heavy and doesn’t exactly slide with ease. More than once after finally accomplishing the tedious task of attaching the side arms to the mower, I’ve found the shaft impossible to break free.
Unwilling to erase the progress of having attached the sidearms, I’ve had to crawl under the tractor, tie a tow rope to the stuck shaft, secure the tow rope to my four-wheeler and use that to free it.
This entire operation has been known to take several hours, much sweat, skinned knuckles and a flow of curse words.
I’m quite certain the language has not helped our relationship, and I’m working on that.
Once up and running doesn’t mean the adventure is over.
There is much vibration in the mower, akin to being attached to one of those weight loss machines that wraps a belt around your middle and shakes, which means critical pins can come loose, which means the Bush Hog can end up in precarious positions, which means walking back to the barn to get the farm truck’s jack to realign the mower to properly attach it again.
Then there are the repairs the Massey Ferguson often requires, such as unclogging the fuel line, which no matter how carefully done always results in a good dousing of diesel.
Removing dirt and debris from the radiator so the engine doesn’t overheat is another fun chore.
I could go on.
For instance, changing the bearing on the Bush Hog’s rear wheel probably shouldn’t take a day and a half, but loosening bolts that haven’t been freed in years takes more sweat, more cursing and more time, as does the several trips to town to the tractor shop to get needed parts.
After my latest skirmish with the tractor, my wife commented: “You and that tractor! Gonna take it away from you!”
Not a chance. Our relationship is beginning to mature.
I’m no longer a rookie. I have the scars to prove it.

Jacksonville, The Times They Aren’t a Changin

From the blue gate that opens to Roaring Creek Farm, Jacksonville is 195 miles to the east.
At the farm, it is peaceful. Jacksonville, however, is a hot mess.
It’s the Jacksonville way, and it’s been mostly that way during the 40 years I’ve reflected on the city as a journalist.
But the city’s bad traits have only been exacerbated by the current administration.
As demonstrated through words and action, at its core is a meanness and a posture of war.
Unfortunately, its enemy is inclusiveness and striving for common ground.
And it has molded people who know better into its ugly image.
While the city’s murder rate climbs ever upward, the administration, with a majority of the City Council bent to its will, has stuck its nose into another elected body’s business.
Before and since consolidation, the city’s minority neighborhoods have been treated shabbily.
That’s particularly true with the public schools.
The School Board hopes to reverse that shame by asking voters to approve a sales tax to upgrade the system’s dilapidated schools, the oldest in the state.
But the administration and council, egged on by a group of rich people who want to grab a disproportionate chunk of the tax revenue for their pet projects, stand in the way.
It’s the Jacksonville way.
Instead of this power play, the administration and council should be paying attention to city challenges that actually fall under their purview:
The murder rate. The fact that after 50 years, the promises of consolidation remain unfulfilled. Failing infrastructure. Pollution. Preparing the city for climate change.
It’s difficult to pay to correct such shortcomings while giving away hundreds of millions of dollars to favored developers who have the money to pay their own way instead of feeding off taxpayers who don’t get such breaks.
It’s the Jacksonville way.
With this administration just at the start of its second term, it’s going to be a long and dangerous four years.
An embarrassingly low turnout of voters put this crew into office. One has to wonder how much people care.
The mayor isn’t fiddling while the city burns. He’s attending Jaguar practices.
And the people shrug instead of demanding change.
It’s the Jacksonville way.

2019, Anno Domini: A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall

She stood on a hill and cried out:
A reckoning is coming.
The children are sobbing.
Parents are taken, their brown-skinned hands cuffed.
The shots ring out rapidly again, again and again.
A reckoning is coming.
The seas are rising and covering the land.
Fields are parched.
Fields are flooded.
A reckoning is coming.
The winds howl.
The earth trembles.
A reckoning is coming.
A country founded in blood and subjugation still hates.
A few live lavishly and want more.
Those without are stirring, their anger increasing like a gathering storm.
A reckoning is coming.
Where are the leaders? Not here.
Where are the prophets? Silent.
A reckoning is coming.
Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
A reckoning is coming.
She stood on a hill and cried out:
A reckoning is coming.
No one heard.

Failing Stewards


God’s handiwork at sunset at Roaring Creek Farm

August is a difficult month at Roaring Creek Farm, this year especially so.
The temperature soars into the triple digits daily. The heat saps your strength.
There is no cooling breeze, and in the stillness, the gnats swarm and buzz around your face. A drenching of insect repellant is only a momentary distraction for them.
Is it possible to be driven over the edge by armies of tiny bugs?
But there is still joy here, even in August.
The setting sun can paint the sky in glorious colors.
Last evening screech owls serenaded a waxing moon that was already high above the horizon with their strange warbling calls.
An occasional firefly flashed by in the growing darkness.
Before sunrise is the time to be up and about.
While not cool, the air is not yet stifling.
Frogs by the lake, barred owls in the woods and birds awakening to a new day provide a heavenly chorus.
During the mornings, butterflies, with the Swallowtails perhaps the most spectacular, add even more beauty to the flowers they momentarily visit before flitting to the next.
God has blessed us with great beauty. We are not being good stewards of this magnificent creation.
Not that long ago, hundreds of fireflies would delight with their now you see me, now you don’t dance that lit up August nights.
Now there are only a few.
God forgive us for what we are doing to this land.
We know better.

The Flower

On Oct. 10, 2018, Hurricane Michael’s 145 mph winds ripped through Roaring Creek Farm.
In the deep ravines, the wind toppled towering white oaks, magnolias and other decades-old hardwoods.
In the planted longleaf pines, trees snapped midway or hit the ground entirely. Others leaned at awkward angles, pushed by the wind.
Among the twisted wreckage, other trees stood tall and straight with no explanation of survival discernible to the human eye.
Not long after the historic storm cut its devastating path through Florida and Georgia, a young forester observed the damage at Roaring Creek Farm.
“Nature will heal herself,” he said.
Nature, chainsaw work and patience.
Ten months later, August brought searing temperatures, heat advisories and further evidence, just as Michael was, of climate change and the future.
On a 105-degree Saturday, in the tangled mess of broken pines, a plant with delicate white, bell-shaped flowers stood out.
How a single Easter lily took root and prospered there is a mystery.
A sign of hope? Of resurrection?
Nature will heal herself, but we must reverse our destructive ways for nature to have a chance.IMG-0816

Save Hallowes Cove


Hallowes Cove on the east bank of the St. Johns River near Switzerland is magical.
It’s a place where eagles soar and ospreys dive, where wildflowers blossom in the spring and where massive oaks draped in Spanish moss tower over the land.
The cove’s water is tannic and clear and shallow.
The cove is also in danger.
The RiverTown development is once again eyeing Hallowes Cove for a 250-slip dry stack marina and related facilities.
This same battle was fought in 2016, and the developers agreed to abandon the plan.
But Florida’s natural treasures are never safe when there is money to be made.
The developers are reneging on the master plan they agreed to and now are seeking changes from the St. Johns County Commission to allow for the marina.
With the marina would come pollution and dredging to make the cove navigable for boats. What is now a beautiful park would be interrupted by commercial activity.
The St. Johns River itself would be damaged. And a special place that appears much like it did when William Bartram walked there in the 1700s would be lost forever.
A sign at the park reads: “RiverTown believes in celebrating the beauty of our Natural Environment and protecting our Natural Resources.”
Then stick to what was agreed to in 2016.
There’s a Facebook page — Protect Hallowes Cover — where opposition is mounting.
Never give up the fight.

What Curry said four years ago

During a televised debate on May 12, 2015, Lenny Curry pounded Alvin Brown, blaming him for the city’s soaring murder rate.
“Mayor Brown, you have had four years to fix the problem,” Curry said.
Turnabout is fair play.
Mayor Curry you have had four years to fix the problem, and the city’s murder rate during your watch has stayed the same.
During his inaugural speech, Curry continued the theme that “our city has faced over the last few years a spike in violent crime and murders.”
“Many of the problems that are before us were not of our making,” he said. “But they are absolutely ours to own.”
And Curry made this pledge:
“I met a 10-year-old kid months ago that after a story he told me about baseball told me he saw his friend get shot in the chest. That should not happen to our kids in this city.
“But this is going to take a new way of thinking. We are going to resurrect the Jacksonville Journey. We are going to invest in programs that work and make sure they are accountable.
“But the new way of thinking is really about these kids knowing that we love them. If they think they are simply a problem the Mayor’s Office and the council or the business community is trying to solve so we can get them out of the way and go about our business, it won’t work.
“Here’s my commitment. I will work for the resources and the accountability in the programs, but I’m going to get in the trenches. I’m going to get with these children and I am going to let them know that we love them and care about them individually and I’m going to challenge every one of you in this room to engage in this effort in the years ahead. These are our children. These are Jacksonville’s children.”
You can be the judge as to whether Curry has fulfilled that pledge during his four years as mayor. The facts are the murders have continued unabated and too many of the victims and the perpetrators have been Jacksonville’s children.
It was in that same speech that Curry chanted, “One City, One Jacksonville.”
Four years later, how’s that working out?
It’s time for a change. Vote for Anna Brosche.

Lenny’s change in Twitter tone

Lenny Curry’s Twitter time has been mostly sugar and spice of late instead of his usual macho tone.
Perhaps he’s trying to erase his reputation for bullying by tweeting daily prayers, praise of exercise routines with his wife and kind remarks instead of talk about crushing opponents.
Sorry, stripes aren’t changed so easily.
Now that he has an opponent for re-election, Anna Lopez Brosche, his tweet at 9:07 Monday morning was more like the real Lenny:
“Fundamentals. Focus. Sicko mode.”
Sicko mode?
This is not a football game where hyped-up players taunt and strut.
We need a mayor who governs with reason not adrenaline rushes.